Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Ares, Apollo, and Artemis by George O'Connor (three books)

I've written about George O'Connor's great series of books Olympians -- retelling the stories of the Greek gods for an audience not yet old enough to drive -- several times before, but now he's clearly getting to the A-team!

(Pause for laughter for a very, very weak joke.)

Actually, the previous books are Zeus, Athena, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Aphrodite, so the A-team has been featured twice before...but there are a lot of Greek gods beginning with A to begin with. You also could note that this planned twelve-book series is now three-quarters complete, leaving O'Connor with Hermes, Haiphestos, and possibly Dionysos and/or Hestia to finish up the set.

Like each of the preceding books, Ares, Apollo, and Artemis each presents the titular god at the center of authentic mythological action, somewhat opaqued to make certain elements more acceptable to a middle-school audience (or, more precisely, to the librarians, teachers, and purse-string-holding school boards of those young people). O'Connor doesn't exactly bowdlerize, but he doesn't dwell on the gore and rape -- though his annotations and notes at the end are specific enough to explain to all but the dullest middle-schoolers what was actually going on.

Some of the books dramatize one major myth or story about that god, while others have taken a more holistic approach -- you can't encapsulate Zeus by telling how he seduced one particular mortal women, for example.

So Ares is set at the climax of The Illiad, tightly focused on the squabbles among the gods over their demigod children and favorites, while Apollo and Artemis are more like mosaics, telling many stories to fill in the lives of their title characters. Apollo is told by the nine Muses, each telling (alone or in tandem) one story of this most Lannister-looking of gods, from his birth through his pursuits of various women to his defiance of Zeus. Artemis's story is told by a wider chorus (and, yes, a Greek one, har har), but similarly covers the major myths about her.

O'Connor clearly loves this material and has spent a lot of time and effort to present it well. And he has detailed notes on his story, plus an actual bibliography to send interest readers back to the originals. This is pretty much the Platonic ideal of a series for young readers: detailed, exciting, colorful, well-researched, and connecting back to works with more depth. And it's of serious interest even to readers who are old enough to drive.

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